This week, the education system set aside a day to commemorate the uprooting of Gush Katif, a significant event in Israel’s history.

In December 2003, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced the disengagement plan, a unilateral exit and deportation of the residents of Gush Katif and northern Samaria. This move went against Sharon’s entire worldview before that. Sharon was known as the great builder of settlements, and only in the 2003 elections did he oppose any unilateral withdrawal.

As a young student at the Technion during those days, I founded the “TA KATOM” and participated in many protest actions. The traumatic events of the Gush Katif uprooting taught me two crucial lessons. First, the left’s talk about human and individual rights and the rule of law is just a hoax to dig into. The High Court judges who are calling out today about the potential harm to minorities if the reform of the judicial system is passed mobilized with full vigor to the order of the predatory Sharon government. They made sure to enforce police violence, mass arrests, arresting 14-year-old girls until the end of the proceedings just because they participated in a protest, providing backup for stopping buses of demonstrators, and more. Everything was done without the High Court and without B’Tselem, without human dignity and freedom.

The great mystery of Sharon’s decision, the “Father of the Settlements,” to carry out the act has not yet been resolved, but it is not unreasonable to assume that there is a connection between it and his understanding of the mindsets in the legal and enforcement systems. The media, the watchdog of democracy, was then revealed in all its hiddenness. The Media presented the victims as divisive, described the protest as a rebellion, the resistance as violence, and the demand for a referendum by a prime minister who took irreversible steps against his express promise as anti-democratic.

The phrase “Itroog” was born then in the famous statement of Amnon Abramowitz: “I think that Sharon should be protected as much as ETROG (Citron)… In my opinion, he should be protected, not only from political flags, but also from legal flags.” The understanding that a fundamental change must be made in the State of Israel and not just winning the elections outlined the way for me to continue.

The second lesson that I learned is understanding the power of long-standing propaganda. Propaganda that turned the settlers into real enemies and created legitimacy for the destruction of their enterprise without any qualms of conscience. Whatever the reasons that led Sharon to take the course he did, executing such a radical action as the violent expulsion of entire families from their homes was a violation of their rights to protest and the silencing of all criticism. To carry out such a move, the entire system needed to be mobilized, from officers and lawyers to the soldiers and policemen in the field. This required full commitment from the system and could only be achieved through years of demonization.

One of the most striking aspects of the Gush Katif episode was the way in which the settlers were demonized in the lead-up to the expulsion. For decades, they were portrayed in the media and in public discourse as extremist, messianic, violent, and a burden on both Israel’s security and economy. This long-term propaganda campaign had a profound impact on the way the Israeli public perceived the settlers and their cause.

As a result of this demonization, those who opposed the settlers came to view them as a real enemy, and the majority of Israeli society accepted the legitimacy of their deportation. This is a powerful reminder of the ways in which today’s ideas can shape tomorrow’s actions, and the importance of understanding long-term processes and the power of propaganda.

For many, the destruction of the homes in Gush Katif was a tragedy, one that continues to be felt deeply. The area was once a paradise for pioneers and believers, a place where Israelis from all walks of life came together to build a better future. The fact that it was ultimately destroyed in such a violent and traumatic way is a testament to the enduring power of propaganda and the need for vigilance in the face of those who seek to demonize and dehumanize others.

As we reflect on the events of August 2005 and the lessons that can be learned from them, it is clear that we must remain vigilant in the face of propaganda and the demonization of others. We must strive to understand the long-term processes that shape our society and take action to counteract those forces that seek to divide us.

The legacy of Gush Katif is one that will be felt for generations to come. We must honor that legacy by working together to build a better, more inclusive future for all Israelis, one in which we recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their background or beliefs.